Kewaunee County Board approves budget
After a lengthy discussion of the 2016 county budget, the Kewaunee County Board Tuesday night approved a budget that county officials say required sacrifices by almost every department to address increases in health care costs and revenue shortfalls caused by the closed Dominion nuclear power plant.
The final 2016 budget was $20,630,184, an increase of $310,452 over the 2015 budget of $20,319,732. The increase was primarily due to a 10 percent increase in health care costs for county employees as well an increase in worker’s compensation costs, according to Scott Feldt, county administrator.
The county board approved the budget on a 15-4 vote and approved a tax levy of $11,177,945 on a 17-2 vote. The levy translates into a tax rate of $5.82 per thousand dollars of equalized value, compared to a tax rate of $7.59 for 2015.
The decrease in the tax rate is primarily due to the current $450 million assessed valuation of the closed Dominion nuclear power plant by the Town of Carlton. Dominion has filed a lawsuit disputing the value, which is expected to be settled later this year. The final valuation of the Dominion plant may impact the tax rate again in 2017, according to Feldt.
“The budget went up as a total cost, but the revenue to pay for it went down because we won’t get the full $700,000 in utility aid we received in the past,” said Feldt. All county departments were asked to cut their budgets by 5 percent in 2016 to address the budget issues.
More than a dozen residents appeared at the meeting to request that the County Board reconsider proposed cuts of $14,000 to library funding and add $10,000 to the proposed 2016 county allocation of $30,000 to the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp. (KCEDC).
Representatives from Agropur, Dominion, WS Packaging and N.E.W. Plastics spoke in support of the county allocating additional funds to KCEDC.
Lonnie Vincent, president of KCEDC and vice president of N.E.W. Plastics in Luxemburg, told the board that the $510,000 in funding the county has given to KCEDC over the last 11 years has provided support to every business in the county. He said KCEDC has brought more than 300 new jobs to the county and assists 45 businesses annually with grant writing, site location, education partnerships, product support and other programs.
Supervisor Gerald Paape proposed a resolution to increase the county’s funding of KCEDC from $30,000 to $40,000 by taking the $10,000 from 2016 funds allocated for the county’s new tourism coordinator.
Supervisor Lee Luft proposed an amendment to the resolution that would take the additional KCEDC funds from the general fund, as he said decreasing the new tourism coordinator’s salary could hurt the program’s effectiveness.
After discussion, the board voted 10-9 to defeat the motion that would have taken the KCEDC funds from the general fund, but passed the resolution 11 to 8 to provide KCEDC an additional $10,000 from funds allocated to the tourism coordinator.
Supervisor Bruce Heidmann said that he had been prepared to offer a resolution to increase library funding but after all of the discussion at the meeting, he agreed that budget cuts would have to be across-the-board and include the library.
In other business, the County Board passed a resolution to recognize the dedicated service of former County Supervisor Gordon “Gordy” Reckelberg, who died on Oct.18.
“He will be missed by all of us,” said County Board Chairman Ron Heuer.
The board also passed a resolution to sell a surplus right-of-way property in the Town of Carlton to Gary L. Plansky for $11,347. While the highway commissioner had approved the sale, Supervisor Larry Kirchman, chairman of the Highway/Solid Waste Committee, requested that all future sales of highway right-of-way property be approved by his committee.
Because of the county’s plans to host Farm Technology Days July 11-13, 2017, the County Board also passed a resolution asking the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to move up its planned Wisconsin 54 construction project so that it is completed prior to July 2017 and does not negatively impact traffic associated with the event.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Kewaunee County Board approves budget